Dark Days, begorrah!

Posted by Anita on 03.20.08 11:44 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**If you ask Cameron what his favorite cold-weather meal is, you might be in for a surprise. It’s not Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. It’s not even a big prime rib, with plenty of leftovers for his beloved beef-and-bleu sandwiches. No, the thing my Scots-Irish husband loves best when the nights are long is New England Boiled Dinner — better known as “corned beef and cabbage” — with a hearty dollop of horseradish cream and an imperial pint of stout to wash it down.

Like most folks, we’ve reserved this marvelously meaty meal for St. Patrick’s Day feasts. But given how cheap it is, and how much we enjoy it, I’m not entirely sure why we don’t trot it out regularly. Perhaps we got in the habit back when it was difficult to find corned beef during the rest of the year. But the last few winters, we’ve taken to curing our own brisket, so getting our hands on nice corned beef isn’t so much of a problem.

I know there are at least two of you who know our little secret: Home-cured corned beef only sounds impressively arcane; it’s actually about the easiest thing you can cure at home. The only thing you need is a 4-to-6 pound piece of brisket — point cut, preferrably — plus a few easy-to-find spices and a week’s forethought. And if you use a dry cure like the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe [link removed*] we often follow, rather than the typical immersion brine, you don’t even need a lot of fridge space. Honestly, we’ve got to do this more often… if only for the crave-inducing leftovers.

This year’s brisket came to us from Marin Sun Farms, and a glorious specimen it was. For the accompaniments, we wandered the Ferry Plaza market and rounded up a Catalan Farms cabbage, two pounds of Little’s potatoes, a bunch of Star Route Farms carrots, a pile of Dirty Girl boiling onions, and a couple of rutabagas from Heirloom Organic. Imagine our surprise as we walked by the Happy Girl Kitchen pickle stand on our way back to the car and noticed they were selling prepared horseradish! (Yes, it was local — grown at Tairwa Knoll Farms and processed in Santa Cruz County — and delicious.) On the way home, we popped by our local microbrewery, 21st Amendment, and picked up a growler of their oyster stout. Ah, it was the easiest 100% local meal of the month, to be sure, and definitely one of the tastiest.

The rest of the fortnight was full of other tasty tidbits, including six meals at restaurants that wear their locavore menus on their sleeves. You’ll recognize lots of old standbys in the list below, and a pair of newcomers. Let’s just say that Conduit seems to be still working the kinks out of their kitchen; they’ve only just opened, so we’ll keep mum. On the other hand, Ubuntu is old enough to know better. I wish we had loved every bite at this nationally fawned-upon Napa newcomer, but — as our friend and dining companion Cookiecrumb detailed elsewhere — the inventive flavors and gorgeous ingredients were so oversalted as to be nearly inedible. Ah, well… they can’t all be Range, I suppose.

Mercifully, we did not return home hungry. There were plenty of other delicious things we discovered on our Napa field trip, including a to-die-for packet of pastrami (from Fatted Calf’s gorgeous new shop at the Oxbow Market) that had us happily gorging on sandwiches… even for breakfast. And we also discovered another secret ingredient that we’ll share more about in our next Dark Days installment.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Dark Days Ticker — March 1-15
- Dark Days dinners at home: 8 out of 15
- Locavore dining-out: Range, Primavera, ubuntu, O Izakaya, Two, Conduit
- New recipes: Jamie’s stuffed potatoes, Hugh’s milk-braised pork, cauliflower steaks
- Old faves: corned beef & cabbage, egg drop soup, bean salad, Waltuck‘s chicken paprikás, grilled rib-eye
- Freezer fodder: golden veggie bisque, potstickers, chili verde enchiladas, oxtail ragu, bolognese sauce

New local items in the pantry:
- Straus Creamery cream-top milk (2% and whole)
- Marin Sun Farms point-cut brisket
- Fatted Calf pastrami (available at their Napa store only, alas!) and bierwurst
- Little‘s “all blue” potatoes
- Zuckerman’s asparagus
- Happy Girl Kitchen Co. prepared horseradish
- Andante butter
- 21st Amendment Oyster Stout (brewed with Hog Island oysters!)
- Carmel S&S Syrah (thanks, Lauren!)
- Bartholomew Park Cabernet


* Edited to add: We removed the link to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe in July 2008 in protest of their bullying tactics.

beer, Dark Days challenge, holidays & occasions, locavore, meat, Napa & Sonoma, restaurants



Comment by Lee

Next time I’ll have to try the dry rub. I used the one from Bon Apettit and I have 4 more days until a verdict can be reached. Next year, I’ll start earlier too!

Posted on 03.21.08 at 7:04AM

Comment by Kalyn

Sounds like something fun to try. I’m curious as to why you prefer point cut. Since the flat cut is more expensive I guess I always assumed it was better (and quite honestly I’m not entirely sure what the difference is.)

Posted on 03.21.08 at 7:39AM

Comment by sam

You do such a great job of blogging, I think I am going to make a full time job of specifically not finding my mojo so I can just read about your adventures instead.

Posted on 03.21.08 at 8:36AM

Comment by Anita

Kalyn: The point cut is cheaper because it’s the fattier end, so not necessarily fabulous for your blog’s demographic. But it’s got both more intramuscular marbling, and a thicker deckle of fat. You can make corned beef with the flat cut, and it;s even pretty good when it’s first served, and in hash. But when it comes to sandwiches, it’s fairly meh. More info here: http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-term/t–35239/brisket-point-cut.asp
Sam: Aww… you’re sweet. But I do hope you get your mojo back — I miss my B&P fix.

Posted on 03.21.08 at 9:21AM

Comment by cookiecrumb

I’ve been wondering how your CB came out. Gorgeous! It looks firm and glisteny. I’ll have to check out the dry cure for next time, and who says it has to be March 17?

Posted on 03.21.08 at 10:57AM

Comment by Lauren

I did the CB out of Charcuterie this year. Have you done that one before? How does it compare to the Cooks Illustrated one?

Posted on 03.21.08 at 11:10AM

Comment by Anita

Lauren: I haven’t made Ruhlman’s version — someone else mentioned they were doing it, though… though I can’t remember who. I don’t think it was you. :D

This year we used a hybrid of the Cooks’ and River Cottage Meat recipes. We used RC’s blend of spices, and added brown sugar and prague powder, but we stuck with the CI dry-rub method. We used the largest size FoodSaver vacuum bag, too, so we didn’t have to worry about leakage. It was the best brisket we’ve made so far, if I do say so myself.

Posted on 03.21.08 at 12:05PM

Comment by Wendy

We just finished the last of our leftovers with a big blowout hash and poached eggs this morning. I will make some minor adjustments in the Ruhlman’s pickling spice for my brine for next year. But victory non the less as it is the first time Dayne has been willing to eat it.

Posted on 03.22.08 at 1:47PM

Comment by L Vanel

Hmmm. That looks amazing. I have to knock out a plan to do one of these. When I visited the UK last week, I had an amazing corned beef sandwich. I realized with the first bite that it had been eight long years since I enjoyed a nice corned beefsandwich. This is something I need to get started on right away.

Posted on 03.25.08 at 7:40AM

Comment by Helen

Corned beef, cabbage and horseradish. Now that is totally up my street. That has got to be a top5 last supper dish for me.

Posted on 03.25.08 at 12:25PM

Pingback by Urban Hennery » Blog Archive » Dark Days 2008: Recap #6

[...] Anita and Cameron celebrated St. Pat’s day in style with not only a home cooked New England Boiled Dinner, but made it with home cured corned beef! She assures us that curing your own brisket only sounds hard, but I’m not so sure as I’d have to resist the urge to cook it too soon, and that can be hard around here when it comes to roasts. The rest of the meal all came from the Ferry Plaza market (need one of those here!) and included local horseradish. The rest of her post covers their other 7 local meals at home and 7 dinners out at locavore oriented restaurants. I stand by my wish to live at Anita’s house. [...]

Posted on 03.25.08 at 10:55PM

Comment by Kim

Thank goodness you took on the challenge of the New England Boiled Dinner, Anita. Secretly, I was feeling some responsibility to have made this for DD, and then the ensuing guilt that I didn’t. Good thing those of you in sunny California took care of it, though!

I always love stopping by!

Posted on 03.28.08 at 1:17PM

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